Effects of a global pandemic on ad serving

disease outbreak We all expect to get sick at some point, as that is just a natural part of life, but what we don’t always expect is a new virus to appear for which there is, as of yet, no cure. These viruses lead to a global pandemic where we see entire countries grind to a sudden halt, with people staying indoors until the virus has run its course before slowing down. The arrival of the Coronavirus, or COVID-19 as it is more commonly referred to, will go down as one of the scariest times in our lives, as it has had a major impact on everything. That includes the online advertising world of publishers, advertisers and adservers in between. Let’s take a closer look at the effects on ad serving during a global pandemic.

Negative effects on a global scale

This current pandemic is one that is not isolated to a single nation, as it has now spread across the globe at an alarming rate. While some places certainly have it worse than others, it has had a huge negative impact on everyone and everything. Many businesses that are considered to be non-essential are temporarily closed, while citizens are being asked, or in some cases ordered, to stay indoor to help prevent the spread. Supply and demand are disrupted. Travel and hospitality industries have no demand while grocery supermarkets and cleaning supplies have a surge in demand to a point that supply cannot meet the current demands. This is a situation that might get worse before it gets better. Therefore, marketing for these products or services must change as well. Some ad campaigns are terminated or must change immediately to reflect business disruption.


The belief is that this virus will run its course and be brought under control, but there is absolutely no definite time frame in place for that happening at this time. Because it is so new with no known cure, things and policies change on a daily basis. With many businesses now losing money or unable to open to the public, we are seeing advertisers looking ahead and thinking about postponing future ad campaigns, if they have not done so already. That has a ripple effect across the entire advertising industry for both advertisers and publishers.


With so many people forced to stay home for weeks, and potentially even months, certain types of industries and ads become more attractive to the buying public. We are going to start seeing fewer ads for businesses that are forced to suspend operations, such as restaurants, theme parks, or events. At the same time, we see an increase in advertising for online-only services. People are going to be spending a lot of time online in order to pass the time and be productive at home, so this shift is not surprising at all.

Discretionary products and services

We are in a time where common sense gives way to panic buying, which is why we are seeing empty shelves in grocery stores across the world. People are focusing more on items that they consider to be essential, which means that ads for luxury items and travel will probably not be getting a lot of action. These advertisers likely stop their campaigns to conserve cash for surviving the lockdown.

Staple products and services

Given that we are seeing staple products and services get scooped up at an alarming rate, you might think that ads for these types of products would rise. The opposite, though, is often the case, as manufacturers are in a position where they don’t need to advertise at all to sell their goods because they cannot restock products fast enough even at full price. In the short term, advertising has a lower priority than other business operations. Advertisers might want to maintain a minimum or basic campaign until outlook becomes clear.
Posted in Ad Strategies Selling Ads Directly by John Z April 06, 2020


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